VISIT TO JAMIE SNOWDEN’S FOLLY HOUSE STABLES
TO SEE OUR REWARD AND PRIDE OF PEMBERLEY
SATURDAY 25 FEBRUARY 2017
Pride of Pemberley at the training grounds, with Page Fuller aboard
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This would be my third visit to Jamie Snowden’s Lambourn yard, having previously visited in August and October 2016. Jamie currently had two EPDS horses in his yard – Our Reward and Pride of Pemberley.
Sadly the third, Wildehearted Woman (aka Wilma), had suffered a career ending injury just a few weeks earlier, when she fell two out at Leicester racecourse; she was sure to win at the time. Wilma had originally been consigned from Ireland, via Jamie’s regular source and middle-man; the owner/breeder having earlier supplied the mare to the latter. Normally, leased horses such as Wilma would be returned to their owner/breeders when they retire; sadly Wilma’s owner/breeder was not interested in taking her back.
EPDS therefore had no option but to offer Wilma a permanent home, with the hope that once she’s recovered from the injury, a broken bone at the back of her knee, she’ll make a lovely brood mare. The 6-year-old is by stallion Oscar.
Meanwhile, the arrangement between Hannah Bishop and EPDS had come to an end, and Menace had returned to the care of EPDS to continue his recuperation from lameness problems. It was a shame, as everyone loves Menace including Hannah and her sons, also Mrs Prowting; sadly EPDS do not have the same financial resources for veterinary treatment as ‘Mrs P’, so continuation of the loan arrangement proved untenable.
Menace had been replaced by Galactic Power trained by Robin Dickin and Avealittlepatience trained by Fergal O’Brien. The former has won for the Twitterati syndicate, at Catterick; whereas the mare hasn’t ‘got home’ in her two bumpers to date. At the time of this visit, the jury was out as to whether she would remain one of our two syndicate horses.
Whereas I can get to Lambourn and Blewbury easily, Fergal’s Naunton yard and Robin’s Alcester base are too far on a dark winter morning; my night sight has deteriorated during the past 12 months. I’ve only managed one visit to the races with the syndicate too, for Menace’s bumper race at Worcester in July 2015. Sadly the horses don’t tend to race anywhere near me, and I don’t feel able to drive far in the dark. Oh well. I try to make up for it by visiting yards when light conditions permit.
Also at this time, my mind had been ‘invaded’ by the news that my employer was relocating their office to Luton at the end of June. That’s thrown a spanner in the works with regards to travel to work times – I currently enjoyed walking 20 minutes each way from work each day. But walking 25 minutes to the station, followed by a 15 minute train ride, then another 5 minute walk, plus the time taken waiting for a train, twice a day, adds up to a lot of wasted time.
I think going forward the only solution will be to cut back on my racing diaries, by omitting the race notes, as they take up much of my spare time. In 2016, it took me until October to complete my Cheltenham, Aintree and Sandown Park diaries, and I’ll soon be losing in excess of 300 hours a year. Ouch!
Anyway, the suggested arrival time for today’s visit was 10:00 for a 10:15 start. This being the case, I set my alarm for 06:00 which gave me over two hours to get ready for departure. I intended to leave home at 08:15, travelling via the local supermarket forecourt in order to top up the petrol tank of my car.
So, having showered, washed and dried my hair and applied make-up, and then eaten two croissants for breakfast, I was ready to depart at the hoped for time.
Today’s outfit consisted of a thermal t-shirt – grey with black doves – a dark grey v-neck M & S sweater, my purple fleece, plum-coloured M&S jeggings, wine-coloured BHS jacket, berry shades scarf (a Christmas present from my friend Denise), and black M&S snow boots. I wore my brown M&S Footglove ankle boots to drive in, and took my black and white graphic print Kipling handbag.
Having driven to the petrol station, my route then took me via Highfield Park; it was a dull day, unlike the day before. I’d chosen this route because I’d seen just one magpie in the garden before I departed and, superstitiously, felt I needed to see at least one more; I spied three along this section of the route – one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy! That boy was probably Choc’s second son; born on Thursday 23 February!
Whilst I was waiting for the traffic lights to change at the London Colney roundabout, I thought I’d switch on the CD player … all I got was the radio, and then nothing! Had I replaced a CD in the player since the car was serviced? Damn, I was going to be music-less all the way to Lambourn.
I headed down the bypass to join the M25 anti-clockwise carriageway at junction 22. There were no problems on the London orbital motorway and I’d reached the M4 interchange by 09:00; I subsequently headed westwards towards Lambourn. There were two or three sections where the speed limit was 50mph; just prior to the A329(M) junction, otherwise known as Reading East, being the first. There may have been a short section just prior to Reading Central, and definitely a long section just after Reading West.
It delayed me, because it was just gone 09:45 before I left the motorway at junction 15.
My route briefly took me onto the A338, before I turned left onto the B4000 and headed through Woodlands St Mary and Lambourn Woodlands. Further along I turned right and headed down the hill into Lambourn, on the outskirts of which I turned left and headed past Windsor House stables, following the road in the direction of Upper Lambourn.
Jamie’s yard is situated to the left of the road on the outskirts of Lambourn, next to the veterinary facility. As with my previous visits, I parked in the cricket ground car park opposite; fortunately there was space for two or three cars. It was now two minutes to 10:00; I’m becoming too laid back regarding timekeeping! I changed quickly into my snow-boots; as I shut the car door, a group of racehorses was passing by, along the adjacent bridleway. One of the animals, a chestnut, was slightly startled by the noise. Oops! They weren’t Jamie’s however as, having walked up to the road, I saw them disappearing in the direction of Lambourn village.
I crossed over the road and headed up the driveway to the yard, passing through parked vehicles; none parked there were 4 x 4’s. On this occasion there were no horses within the main quadrangle, just a member or two of staff milling around; all of second lot had been returned to their respective stables, with lot 3 presumably being tacked up ready to head to the gallops once the trainer gave the go-ahead.
Having entered Folly House, I discovered that the majority of the attendees had already arrived and were tucking into chocolate brownies and coffee in the kitchen. Jamie greeted me with a kiss on each cheek; I like Jamie, he’s my favourite trainer! Coffee and cake were offered, I declined as I was already fed and watered; besides I didn’t want to be caught short when out on the gallops! One of Jamie’s pointer dogs was in the kitchen and she came over to be made a fuss of; I don’t know whether it was Alder or Cedar.
Ellie didn’t accompany EPDS’ Managing Director John today; she was looking after their son Alfie. I recognised Cirencester man and his mate. The latter came over to chat with me. Somewhere along the line, his conversation turned to Alan King. He is not a fan, suggesting that the Barbury Castle trainer works his horses faster on the gallops than anyone else; he’d been there and seen it. He suggested this was the reason that Alan’s younger horses tended not to retain their form as they got older.
It was soon time to head outside, with a number of horses led out and mounted prior to setting off towards the gallops. These were the grey mare Midnight Silver, Between The Waters, Crown Theatre, Pride of Pemberley, Our Reward, Three Ways, Oliver’s Island, and Lunar Flow. Our Reward headed out a little way behind all of the others; he was ridden by Rodney Farrant.
It was now time for everyone to find their transport to the gallops; a number of 4x4s were parked to the far side of the house. A couple of members of Jamie’s staff also accompanied us, to ensure we all headed in the right direction, even though we were in convoy. Surprise, surprise, I travelled in Jamie’s vehicle; in the front passenger seat on this occasion. It was the muddiest 4x4 however, both inside and out. Jamie said he’d hosed it down a couple of weeks previously, but not cleaned the interior.
We led the way out of the automatic gates, turning left in order to head up the lane towards the Mandown Gallops. One of the guys sitting in the back seat said he liked the name I’d suggested for Colin, namely Pride of Pemberley. Jamie liked the official name too, but explained that unfortunately the pet name of Flem seemed to have stuck with the horse, rather than Colin; this was the name he’d been given when living at Sam Stronge’s yard previously; Sam and John Powell had bought him at the sales. Jamie hates the horse being called ‘Flem’ because, of course, it’s more like ‘Phlegm’!
The trainer also mentioned the fact that he and members of the team had headed to Huntingdon in the face of storm Doris on Thursday, hanging on to the steering wheel for dear life, only for the fixture to be abandoned at the last minute! He was not amused to have spent so much time on a totally wasted journey.
We turned right at the turning beside the ancient churchyard, soon coming to a halt as we encountered a string of racehorses; these were led by a very attractive appaloosa pony. We waited whilst the horses turned across the lane in front of us in order to enter the yard of their trainer, Jamie Osborne. Our Jamie explained that his colleague was due to take a number of horses to St Moritz, to run on the ice which covers the lake in winter.
Once the road was clear, we continued to the T-junction, turning left and then, further along, right to enter Maddle Road. The latter bears left to head past a number of yards; we waited whilst a couple of riders and their horses passed by, heading in the opposite direction. We’d soon reached the entrance to the track which leads up the hill to the top of the Mandown gallops. We passed an occasional horse as we headed up the incline; upon reaching the top, we pulled into the parking area over to our left.
There were two vehicles already there; Jamie asked the driver of the nearer one if he could move further up, to enable our group of vehicles to park. Another string headed up the gallops, ahead of Jamie’s; it was that of Oliver Sherwood.
It was not long before Midnight Silver and Between The Waters headed up the all-weather track towards us. They were followed a short time later by the four member group led by Crown Theatre; following him was Lunar Flow, Three Ways and Our Reward. Meanwhile, Oliver’s Island and Pride of Pemberley had taken a different route in order to head direct to the training grounds.
After we’d viewed the gallop, everyone got back into their respective vehicles; Jamie almost managed to ‘slip’ his pursuers as we headed back in the direction from whence we’d come. He waited for them, initially, before turning left and continuing along the tarmac roadway which led to the area where the schooling fences and hurdles were located. We encountered a group of vehicles and their alighted passengers upon our route, so had to drive along the turf to pass by.
The roadway terminated close to a tall hedge of conifers, probably leylandii, planted as a windbreak to protect the area from the high winds which blew across the downs. There was a small gate or gates located within the hedge, in order for people to reach the far side where the majority of the jumps were situated. Jamie, my three fellow passengers and I, alighted from the vehicle, headed under a stretch of white plastic rails, across the turf and through a gate.
Pride of Pemberley had pleased Jamie with his aptitude for jumping, when schooled firstly over poles, and then hurdles earlier in the week. Having worked well when schooling earlier in the week, Oliver’s Island had been chosen to act as Colin’s lead horse today. Page Fuller was riding the EPDS horse. The riders headed across the turf to take a look at one of the hurdles prior to jumping them, just like they do pre-race. However, it didn’t quite work out as expected when they set off for the first ‘run’.
Pride of Pemberley jumped the set of barrels and two hurdles, upsides Oliver’s Island; Colin was brilliant, but his companion let the side down by crashing out through the wing of the second hurdle! His rider, a lady who does eventing, lay on the ground and was attended for a handful of minutes; fortunately she was unscathed. Oliver’s Island headed off into the great unknown, one of Jamie’s team having been unable to catch him as he cantered by. The horse was caught by a member of the Jockey Club gallops team a few minutes later. Page Fuller did, however, report that she was very pleased with Colin.
Page then took Our Reward over a line of three fences, twice. Again she was pleased; he is able to take his fences on a short or long stride. Finally she hopped aboard Crown Theatre; a big horse, with plenty of scope. He also jumped a total of six fences. He came to Jamie’s yard from Henry de Bromhead; he’d lost his form prior to the transfer but, when his new yard examined his wind, a fragment of blackthorn had been discovered lodged beneath his epiglottis and this was removed.
Crown Theatre is a lovely stamp of a horse and, with this issue sorted out, may just be a horse to follow! He’s currently owned by the Dr Dawn Racing Partnership, and the idea has been mooted that they may join forces with another syndicate with regard to ownership of this particular horse – EPDS had been suggested!
Schooling session successfully completed, apart from just the one hiccup, we headed back through the gate within the conifer hedge to return to the vehicles. Once again Jamie’s 4x4 led the convoy as we set off back to the yard. We passed Page aboard Crown Theatre, with our trainer chatting to her for a brief period. Having left the rider to make her own way back too, one of my companions suggested that the syndicate members might welcome the opportunity for Page to partner the EPDS horses during a race. Will Featherstone’s name was mentioned too, as EPDS had previously sponsored him; however, his talents have now been more widely recognised and subsequently he’s moved out of EPDS’ sponsorship price range!
Jamie was currently of the opinion that Pride of Pemberley, although entered in the valuable Newbury bumper, would struggle to win one because he’s a galloper suited to longer distances. Personally, he’d prefer to turn Colin away until the autumn in order to take advantage of the spring grass and then start him on a novice hurdling career at that stage.
Anyway, we retraced our route back to the stables; there were no strings of horses encountered during the drive. The majority, if not all, of the 4x4s returned through the main gate to Folly House. Jamie parked his vehicle in the large carport and we alighted; the other vehicles pulled up on the area behind us, adjacent to the driveway.
Always welcoming, Jamie began a tour of the stable boxes, telling everyone about the current occupants. Capsy De Mee was occupying the end box near the house, the one with the additional view down the driveway. Dans Le Vent was next door; he’d finished 3rd in the recent Newbury listed bumper race, the placing occupied by Altior in the same race a few years ago! The pretty Lord Topper was occupying a box along the back row; his head over the door, he was busily eating a small bundle of hay. There was a mare next door, listed as unnamed but I think Jamie said she’d actually been leased and now had a name.
In the next box was Oliver’s Island; the girl who had been carted through the wing was in his box, still making him comfortable following third lot. Jamie said that she’d be wearing the ‘monkey hat’ on Monday; evidently it’s worn in recognition of having taken a fall! She said it would be the first time she’d had to wear it during the past six months.
Kassis occupied a box on the third side of the range; at the end was Future Gilded. He was resting having run at Warwick the previous day; he’d finished 2nd under Page Fuller. We then headed through the gateway into the main yard. Midnight Chill continued to live in Present View’s old box. He’d been suffering from an ulcerated pallet in recent months, so this had been rectified and Jamie was hoping to have him ready in time to run in the valuable Newbury Sales bumper at the end of March. Filemon lived in the box next to him.
We then headed through the archway to another range of boxes. Fact Of The Matter occupied the box to our left; Jamie is hopeful that he might run in the Grand National next year, all being well. Next door was Baraymi; he was on the transfer list having now got his own ideas as regards to racing – in other words, he’s become temperamental. Double Treasure occupied the corner box. Next to him was Hogan’s Height, purchased in November at the Cheltenham Sales.
Born Naughty was his next door neighbour; Jamie described him as the handsomest horse in the yard. Between The Waters was next, then Lunar Flow; the latter is as ‘slow as a boat’ evidently! Stalwart Breaking Bits had returned to the yard ahead of getting fit for a summer campaign. Over to our right was the entrance to the barn, containing a number of boxes. We spent a lot of time admiring Pride of Pemberley who lived in the first box to the left; Ardkilly Witness next to him. Naranja further along. Jamie pointed out that Colin’s shoulders are fairly straight, and this suggested that the horse would be better suited to ground on the softer side of good because his feet would hit the ground quite hard.
The first box to the right was occupied by Mollyanna; Jamie had recently told the co-owner, the Duchess of Cornwall, that he didn’t think her mare had retained the talent exhibited prior to an injury. Retirement beckoned. Kapgarde King lived next door, then Blue Bullet and Champagne James. The latter was recovering after having a bone chip removed from his lower off-fore.
We exited the far end of the barn and headed back into the main yard again. Jamie’s wife Lucy was hosing down the children’s very muddy ponies – Sherbet and a pretty chestnut one. Adrrastos occupied the first box and, next to him was a fairly new resident, Fine Jewellery. Our Reward was in the following box.
Our Three Sons occupied the first of the boxes in the next range, with Queens Cloak next, then Crown Theatre. After a couple of empty boxes, a newly arrived horse was to be found within the next one; quarantined as a precaution. This one had been sent over from Ireland by his contact, just like Wildehearted Woman. The middle-man discovers suitable horses via his connections with owner/breeders and the best of these are then sent over to Jamie, with the hope of finding owners and syndicates to take them on. Finally, we headed back across the main yard to see the remaining two horses – the chestnut Buche De Noel, and Three Ways.
A number of the old inmates had been retired – namely Dark Lover, Heronry and Denboy; the latter had been experiencing all kinds of soundness issues, and then he bled too … Jamie had told the owners that it was time for him to be retired. Sadly, Orchard Park had suffered a fatal injury at Doncaster the previous month.
It was soon time for everyone to say goodbye. Jamie spoke about it being a pleasure to train horses for EPDS Racing. Cirencester man’s mate also expressed his pleasure at being part of the EPDS ‘family’. They both have shares in Ami Desbois! I thanked Jamie too; receiving a peck on each cheek again!
As my car was parked over the road, in the cricket ground car park, I headed out through the main yard, past Adrrastos’ box. Other syndicate members had parked in the area beyond the boxes and they were preparing to leave also; I hopped onto the narrow verge beside the driveway as they passed by.
The car park was almost deserted, just three cars remaining I recall. Having changed out of my snow-boots, I was soon ready to depart. It was 12:30 and I texted Denise to let her know that I was on my way. Once again I forgot to check on the CD; too late. Having reached the lane I turned left and headed back past Folly House and soon entered Lambourn village. Unlike my visit in late October when I’d returned via Wantage and Newbury, on this occasion I headed back via the same route to the M4 as on my inward journey.
A car had broken down just prior to the T-junction with the B4000; its hazard lights were flashing and a rescue vehicle had arrived. I turned left and headed back through Lambourn Woodlands and Woodlands St Mary. At the T-junction with the A338 I turned right and shortly afterwards headed up the slip-road onto the eastbound carriageway of the M4.
Usually, when visiting Den, I’d head along to the Reading East junction before leaving the motorway. But having experienced severe traffic delays through the village of Sonning during the middle of the day on more than one occasion, caused by the traffic signals controlling vehicles using the ancient single track bridge over the River Thames, today I decided to leave the motorway at Reading West and head along the A4 into Reading before briefly joining the distribution road.
I can’t recall driving this section of the A4 in this direction before although, on a couple of occasions, I’d headed out of Reading via said route. I found my way by following the signs to Caversham then, having crossed the Caversham Bridge over the Thames, I knew exactly where I was!
Storm Doris had caused damage to a tree close to the local Waitrose store; tree surgeons were busy creating logs from the debris which had already been cleared from the pathway and the road. I arrived at Den’s house at 13:30, my journey from Lambourn having taken one hour.
Having drunk a cup of hot chocolate, Denise, her husband Terry and I set off to drive to the local Wetherspoons for a late lunch. As usual, Terry had difficulty in finding a space to park in the car park behind the pub, so Den and I went into the Lord Cadogan to find a table whilst he waited for someone to leave. The first table we sat at was by the front door; it was too cold when anyone entered the pub! We moved to another table nearby and, finally, a booth became free so we moved yet again; all prior to ordering our food.
I wanted fish and chips, but they’d run out of fish! Instead, I had a vegetable lasagne with chips and a salad, plus a J2O. Also a cup of coffee before we left. We returned home via the local Waitrose; Terry went to buy desserts to be consumed later.
I left for home at around 08:55, travelling back via Sonning, the A4, A404, M4 and M25 to Hertfordshire. I had removed my contact lenses earlier because one of my eyes felt dry; to drive home I wore my glasses, with the special glare-reducing glasses over the top thereof. I have no issues when driving on lit roads, but unlit ones can be a problem. Today my vision wasn’t too bad, the cats-eyes on the A404 certainly helped. I’ve also discovered that my night-sight is slightly better if I’ve spent time in artificial light before driving!
Being late evening, there were no hold-ups and I arrived home at 10:05. There were no side-effects from my long drive today, such as a neck-tension headache. It also probably helped that I stopped off in Caversham on my way home.
There was a sad postscript to Jamie Osborne’s trip to St Moritz. There was a pill-up during the first race of the day, on Sunday 26 February, in which his horse Boomerang Bob suffered a fatal injury having been brought down when two other horses fell. Jockey George Baker was airlifted to hospital; he was put into an induced coma as a precaution and a later MRI scan discovered he’d suffered from bleeding on the brain; George was later returned to the UK to undertake a long recovery period.
Avealittlepatience has since been returned to her owner/breeder in Ireland, as she was deemed unsuitable to be a National Hunt prospect due to not ‘getting home’ in her two races for the Twitterati Racing Club syndicate. At the time of completing this diary, Fergal O’Brien is seeking another horse for the Club to lease.
Click here to view my photographs Part I
Click here to view my photographs Part II